As a devoted Francophile, I knew I had to be part of it! So I registered on the Chicago Diner en Blanc web site and finally got an invitation, and so did several friends. So how did this whole thing happen? Here’s how it went down: after you got your invitation (for which you paid about $16, to cover permit fees and what-not), you then chose a “Harmonization Point” — a meet-up spot. We chose the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street. We and the 80 other people at that meet-up spot checked in with an organizer, who, at 7 p.m. sharp, told us where we were going: Daley Plaza! It was only about 4 blocks away, so off we all went. (Alright, I can’t lie – it was a major schlep, but we “MacGyver’ed” my cute but ridiculously picnic basket on top of a cooler on wheels, while Ellen wrestled with four card-table chairs bungee-corded on a wheelie thing that kept falling apart. And we dressed the brown chairs in Hope’s husband’s white t-shirts! ) So once we arrived, everyone started setting up.
Every set up their tables end-to-end, in about 10 long rows of about 100 tables each, and it was just gorgeous. Then we started unpacking our first course, which Hope and Ellen were in charge of: a delightful spread of cantaloupe with prosciutto, bacon-wrapped dates, cheeses, quince jam, marcona almonds. Parfait!
Nice job, Hope and Ellen! We mingled with our table neighbors, and enjoyed the lovely night. And then we moved on to the main course, which was a beautiful (if I do say so myself) Mustard-Tomato Tart, courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, and marinated green and yellow beans and roasted potatoes.
I will share the recipe and experience of making this tart tomorrow. Talk about crazy: I made this tart twice in one week; one was a “practice tart” that I brought to Ladies Wine Night a few nights earlier, as this was my first time making pate brisee (the classic French tart pastry dough) and I needed to know I could do it! It was delicious! Here’s what the first tart looked like, out of the oven:
Nice, huh? That Dorie – she knows her stuff. The recipe in her cookbook is “Gerard’s Mustard Tart,” and features carrots and leeks, but she gives instructions for how to make it with tomatoes if it’s high summer and tomatoes are at peak-fabulosity – which they are now. So I made it with tomatoes.
The entire night was absolutely divine! I’m sorry I did not get a photo of Susan’s peach pie (God, that woman can make pie), but after dinner we roamed around, talked to friends, observed what others were eating and generally reveled in the fact that we were having quite the elegant diner en blanc smack in the middle of downtown Chicago on a glorious summer night! Bon appetit and salut to the organizers! I can’t wait for next year’s event!